11 March 2016
Acknowledging the Christian Care Centre
This week I hosted our annual International Women’s Day breakfast. The event forms part of a series of activities taking place here in Solomon Islands to mark International Women’s Day in 2016.
For this year’s breakfast, we focussed on the important issue of ending violence against women. In keeping with that theme, I was delighted to present the annual High Commissioner’s International Women’s Day award to the Christian Care Centre, for their service to women and children affected by family violence.
Thanks to the tireless work of the centre’s staff and volunteers, victims of family violence have a safe place to go. Every year, the Christian Care Centre provides shelter for around 150 women and children who are fleeing abusive relationships. Words can’t express my admiration for the good sisters who run the centre.
This week, Prime Minister Sogavare is visiting Fiji, which of course is still in the early stages of recovering from Cyclone Winston. I’m delighted to see Solomon Islands providing both moral and practical support to a neighbour in need, as it did for Vanuatu in the wake of Cyclone Pam last year. Solomon Islands has benefitted from the generosity of its Pacific neighbours in the past, and it’s great to see it returning the favour.
Of course, Australia is also making a major contribution to Fiji, including a A$15 million assistance package and a large contingent of Australian Defence Force (ADF) ships, helicopters and personnel. Yesterday, Prime Minister Sogavare toured some of the most-affected areas of Fiji, courtesy of the ADF. I look forward to hearing about the visit when the Prime Minister returns to Honiara over the weekend.
Finally, it’s been a tough couple of weeks in which Solomon Islands has lost two great and decent men – Sir Peter Kenilorea and Beraki Jino. Sir Peter was, of course, the first Prime Minister, but he was so much more than that. He was a beacon of integrity and humility, and a great statesman of the Pacific. His daughter May works in our High Commission, so our whole team is feeling the impact of Sir Peter’s passing on both the nation and his family.
Beraki Jino, the former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, was taken from us too young. Like Sir Peter, he was a decent and humble man, despite his achievements and status. As a fellow diplomat, I admired the way Beraki went about his work. He may have been gentle and softly-spoken, but on the inside he was as hard as nails when it came to protecting the interests of Solomon Islands. He was a good man and I will miss him very much.